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Elastic bands in physical therapy improves several physical features

Bands can be a useful exercise tool in the elderly population

Falls remain a major problem in the elderly population. In general, falls result from poor balance and a fear of walking, and they can lead to injuries—like hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries—or possibly death in extreme circumstances. Fear of walking can also lead to reduced physical activity in older adults, which may, in turn, create a vicious cycle of more fear and less physical activity. The risk of falling increases with older age, which is why it's important to develop strategies that will reduce this risk. Exercise programs are commonly used to address this problem since they are capable of increasing strength and improving balance and flexibility. Elastic bands, in particular, are one tool that can be very helpful in these exercise programs for the elderly. These bands are portable, inexpensive and easy to use, and may, therefore, be ideal for improving strength and reducing the risk for falls in older adults. For this reason, a study was conducted to determine if elastic bands could improve balance and other physical features in order to lower the fall risk in the elderly population.

Two groups of participants follow different treatments for eight weeks

Adults aged 65 and older were asked to participate in the study, and a total of 45 accepted the invitation. These participants were then evenly divided into two groups: the experimental group and the control group. Both groups underwent a physical therapy program that took place during three 60-minute sessions per week for eight weeks. These sessions included ice or heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and a variety of stretching exercises that targeted the spine. The experimental group also followed a course of elastic band exercises in addition to physical therapy. This took place during three 30-minute sessions per week for eight weeks after physical therapy was finished, and consisted of several strengthening exercises for the ankles, knees, and hips using the elastic bands. All participants were evaluated before the treatment began and immediately afterward for a number of variables related to balance and falls.

Both groups improve, but elastic bands lead to better overall results

Results showed that both groups improved in all measurements taken, but the experimental group reported greater overall changes than the control group. This was found to be the case in scores for balance, flexibility, fear of falling and gait ability, which rated how well each participant walked. These findings show that while physical therapy is independently capable of improving physical features related to falling in older individuals, the addition of elastic band exercises may lead to even greater improvements. Perhaps most important of all, adding these exercises may also reduce the fear of falling in the elderly, which is a major contributing factor to falls. Based on these results, it appears that a physical therapy program that includes elastic band exercises can lead to several benefits and reduce the risk of falls in the elderly population. Using this type of program can, therefore, help to build confidence in older adults and may in time lower the overall rate of falls.

-As reported in the November '16 issue of the Journal of Physical Therapy Science
January 4, 2018